Your Brand is What You Do | The Discipline of Innovation

Your Brand is What You Do

Here’s the story of one the dumbest decisions I ever made as a marketer.

I was managing sales & marketing for a software startup at the time.  We were part of a group that included a retail & wholesale computer store as well. The thing that set the retail store apart was that we made good quality custom PCs, which, at the time, was still fairly rare.

One day my manager came to me and told me that we had a chance to start carrying the digital camera line (all 3 of them) from Panasonic.  We both thought that was a good idea – it would give people a cheap entry-point into the retail shop.  That was our excuse – really, I think we both just thought it was cool.

So I started a long and expensive search for the perfect display stand.  After a great deal of research, I commissioned a local metalworker to make us a beautiful wrought iron stand, with spaces to hold 3 cameras.  It was gorgeous.

And utterly, completely, idiotic.

I had forgotten one of the key lessons that I had learned earlier in my career – your brand is what you do.

Did any of us know anything about cameras or photography? No.

Was a line of cameras going to help us make better quality or more customised PCs? No.

Does anyone go shopping for a camera and come home with a PC? No.

We forgot to solve a real problem for people and to build our business model around that.  The cameras couldn’t help us.  My beautiful, elaborate, idiotic display stand couldn’t help us.

I thought of this today when my colleague Marta Indulska posted this on Facebook:

She had searched for “UQ Business School” and the second paid ad is titled “UQ MBA”, and it links to the page for the MBA program at Southern Cross University.

This is as dumb as my wrought iron display stand.

Your brand is what you do.  So what does buying deceptive and misleading adword links tell you about a brand?

In the social era, the secrets to success are do awesome work and connect with people.

People that search for something as specific as UQ MBA probably have a few reasons for doing so.  It could be because UQ is the university that is closest to them (probable).  Or it could be that they have heard that the UQ MBA is ranked as the best program outside of North America & Europe by The Economist (possible).  Or maybe they just want to take my innovation course as part of their MBA (highly unlikely).

If you’re searching for UQ for any of those reasons, are you likely to be fooled when a paid link takes you to the SCU site?  It might if you were distracted – say, you were doing the search on your smartphone while you were driving.  But it’s not going to fool anyone paying much attention.

So let’s say that you’re teaching in the SCU MBA program, or you’re a hard-working student in it, or an alum – what do you think about a marketing strategy that will pull in only those people so stupid that they fall for it?  What does that say about the brand that you’re trying so hard to build?  Fooling people isn’t doing awesome work.

And if your first contact with someone is based on deception, you’re not connecting with people either.

When you start doing dumb stuff like buying idiotic display stands or trying to steal ad words, you’ve forgotten that your brand is what you do.

Like I said yesterday, you’d be a lot better off if you find a genuine problem, then build a business model around solving it.

That’s the way to build a great brand.


About Tim Kastelle

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

8 Responses to Your Brand is What You Do

  1. Rohan Hine 26 November 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    Another good question Tim – what does this say about the google brand?

    • Tim Kastelle 27 November 2012 at 6:37 am #

      Great question Rohan. At an absolute minimum it suggests that you should never click on sponsored ads!

  2. Brian Driggs 27 November 2012 at 4:34 am #

    I’m given to pause as I begin this comment. I spend a great deal of time talking about what Gearbox Magazine “does,” but how much of it do we actually do? And, really, what is it that we do? It’s very easy to be lulled into a false sense of “We’ve got this bit sorted. What’s next?”

    As much as I’d like to say GBXM “Helps enthusiasts build high performance machines & lives,” we’re probably more an entertainment outlet where said enthusiasts waste time! So do we define (and therefore measure) how we help enthusiasts build high performance machines & lives, or do we lower the bar and re-brand around killing time? Maybe something in the middle?

    We are what we do. Anything else is just vanity.

    • Tim Kastelle 27 November 2012 at 6:38 am #

      This gets back to something you told me ages ago Brian – start with why!

      • Brian Driggs 28 November 2012 at 12:59 am #

        Absolutely, Tim! Thing is, “WHY” is different for different people. I know why I do the work, but why do people consume it? Would be nice to get some feedback from the customers once in a while. :P

  3. Kane Bradford 27 November 2012 at 9:25 am #

    Very true Tim. Got to love the business case that comes before a needs/market assessment. What’s that saying about imitation and flattery?

    • Tim 28 November 2012 at 9:45 am #

      Thanks for the comment Kane. There is the thing about imitation/flattery, but I think this more reflects not understanding what genuine differences there are between the two…

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